Saratoga: A Novel of the American Revolution

Written by David Garland
Review by John R. Vallely

The British 1777 offensive commanded by the larger-than-life “Gentleman Johnny” Burgoyne that culminated in the American victory at Saratoga has long been the setting for historical novels. Garland’s Captain Jamie Skoyles, an infantry officer, goes beyond the stereotypical British officer in that he is sensitive to the needs of his men, alert to the errors of his commanders, and sympathetic to the rebel cause. The fact that he falls in love with his commanding officer’s fiancée certainly complicates the life of this professional soldier.

Garland presents the action in a straightforward style, although it does stretch the bounds of reason to have Skoyles play such a key role in all of the battles. The author seems driven to deprive our Captain of any rest or relaxation on this most arduous of campaigns by shoehorning him into every crucial moment of General Burgoyne’s decision making and engagements. His characters are not well-developed, however, and this detracts from the tale. This lack of care in etching out the personalities of the leading players is especially obvious with Skoyles’s commanding officer, Major Harry Featherstone, his fiancée, Elizabeth, and an American rebel, Ezekiel Proudfoot. They appear more as stereotypes than living beings. Indeed, Featherstone’s evil and vindictive nature is fairly unimaginatively crafted. This is the first of a planned series on Jamie Skoyles in the American Revolution.